Old China Hands 5 November lunch

Numbers are steady

Our Old China Hands 5 November lunch saw a total of 26 familiar faces, recent numbers have been steady but below the past average of 30-35. Members still (stuck) abroad, or busy or even worried to go out with the recent massive COVID cases of less than ten in Beijing.
Anyway all enjoyed the chat and the food.

See a few of the dishes from the special lunch menu. I happened to choose different ones. In view of the ridiculously low price we enjoyed (thanks Renaat) the cost will go up a little in January, So, take advantage of the old price on 3 December, the last lunch of 2021.
I was pictured exactly when my camera went on strike, never happened before. Later back home I managed to get it back to work normally but good to have my iPhone as a backup.

One more famous OCH member

From time to time I introduce some of our illustrious members. This time the honor goes to Melinda!
“20 for 20: Newsweek Beijing Bureau Chief Melinda Liu”
See her story here in TheBeijinger:

“Newsweek’s Beijing Bureau Chief Melinda Liu once considered Beijing a stop on her way to living around the world. Over 20 years later, she’s in awe of how Beijing has changed, whether how the culinary scene has developed or the diversity of the population. Besides her work taking Liu to places both historical and new, during her time here, she turned her curiosity about the American aviators who spent time in China during WWII into a short documentary film. But it’s really been Liu’s chance to witness Beijing’s evolution while visiting ancient sites that have sustained her interest over the years.”

Read the rest of the story in theBeijinger!
Link: https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/4uAxBSlEyuqwBBIKqvPV8Q

Old China Hands 8 October lunch

One week later

Our Old China Hands 8 October lunch saw 29 attendants, one week later than normal because of the 1 October holiday.
A special event as a crew of five from BTV (Beijing TV) is making a documentary with me and wanted to shoot a bit during our lunch. Some of our OCH were interviewed.
The BTV people came to my home office around 9 am, went to the lunch, went back to my home office after the lunch. They left 6:30 pm and I was really exhausted. The joke I made, they shot about anything except me going to the toilet. Curious to see what they will make of it.
I don’t have good pictures of their shooting day as I was alone at home.

Other shooting planned soon, along with our Dutch architect John, see:
“John van de Water talked to Rotary”, https://www.beijing1980.com/2021/09/22/john-van-de-water-talked-to-rotary/
No idea when it will be finished and shown.

Great get together as usual and all happy with company and the food.

The documentary

The theme of the documentary is the “Beijing Central Axis”, also about myself and about John. The shooting plan was first discussed in my office on 19 September 2021.
Today many people even don’t know what it means. I was involved with the idea during the preparation of the 2008 Olympic Venues. See the pic from Beijing This Month magazine.

I also have the detailed study done in 2002 by the German architect Albert Speer Jr. for the Beijing Government

Albert Speer Jr. was a German architect and urban planner. He was the son of Albert Speer, Adolf Hitler’s chief architect before assuming the office of Minister of Armaments and War Production for the Third Reich during World War II. His grandfather, Albert Friedrich Speer, was also an architect. Wikipedia
I met him in Beijing in 2005 and he wrote a very kind thank you letter for the meeting. He passed away in 2017.

Next lunch

The next lunch is planned for Friday 5 November. Stay tuned!

VIW hosted 3 Flemish China Old Hands


In the evening of 28 September 2021 VIW hosted 3 Flemish China Old Hands in the Belgian Embassy of Beijing.VIW – “Vlaanderen in the Wereld”, see https://www.viw.be/en.

I am not sure but I think I am member of VIW since the early eighties. We now have a dynamic representative in Beijing, Tina, who organised the succesful event in collaboration with the Belgian Embassy. Thanks Tina, thanks to our embassy!

Gilbert, one of the speakers

I found it a challenge to give an overview of my 40 years of China in less than 20 minutes… (I think I talked for about 22 minutes). I had a valuable help from Tina’s son who was the “clicker”. I also brought “3 exhibits”.

I never did a similar presentation but my talk was a bit like the following talk I gave:

“In the evening of 29 May 2018 Gilbert spoke for the Rotaract Club of Beijing West, in a lecture hall gently provided by Beijing University. The audience of 45 young people listened to the story of two major projects Gilbert was involved in, to understand how the Chinese administration works and how one can succeed in “Mission Impossible” through perseverance, innovation and continuous learning. One project explained how subway building resumed in China in 1998 through his success in getting Shanghai Line 3 approved by the central government. The other case explains how Gilbert received the challenge to look for funding for the 2008 Olympics, to build the major venues, and how the contracts were awarded.
The two projects are part of his seminars on how to do successful lobbying in China.”
(I still need to write a post about it… see the picture)

The other speakers

Johan from the embassy welcomed us all and Tina hosted the rest of the meeting. Snacks were sponsored by TRB and beers by Duvel Moortgat.

Two other seasoned expats with an impressive career presented their story:
Pol Castermans, Sales Director, North China at Duvel Moortgat – Beijing, China
Kris Van Goethem, Managing Director MICE, LEISURE & SPORT at Thomas Cook – Shanghai, China

Le Petit Prince in Chinese

Revisiting Maxim’s

On 22 September 2021 we were invited to the official launch of Le Petit Prince in Chinese (“The Little Prince”), a new Chinese translation. I also had the chance to visit again Maxim’s de Paris. So many memories…

The Chinese book is beautifully done, the bag is also very cute.
See the original extract compared with the Chinese version (Chapter one).

I was asked to go on stage to tell my own story with the book. Indeed, I was something like 9 or 10 years, in a boarding school in Enghien (Collège Saint Augustin) where I took part in a performance based on the book. It was a shadow play. While I obviously lost the details (60 years ago!) the small theater performance always stayed in my mind.
We met old friends during the event and a new Russian contact who was connected to the stay of our aunt Sun Weishi in Moscow, with Chairman Mao. Small world!

Le Petit Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupéry

See: https://bookmarks.reviews/a-childrens-fable-for-adultsantoine-de-saint-exuperys-the-little-prince/
A Children’s Fable for Adults: Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince
“All grown-ups were once children…but only few of them remember it”
And now here is my secret, a very simple secret:
It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.The full French version can be downloaded here:

The mystery of his plane crash

I now read the final story of what happened to the author. His plane had disappeared in 1944 and for decades nobody knew what happened. Read the story:
Plane Wreck Of the Author Of ‘Prince’ Is Discovered – By Agence France-Presse
7 April 2004
A French underwater salvage team has discovered the remains of the plane of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, author of ”The Little Prince,” six decades after his disappearance, government researchers said Wednesday.
The pieces of the Lockheed Lightning P38 aircraft, which vanished July 31, 1944 during a wartime reconnaissance mission, were found off the coast of the Mediterranean city of Marseille, the Culture Ministry’s Department of Subaquatic and Submarine Archaeological Research said.

The full story: https://www.nytimes.com/2004/04/07/world/plane-wreck-of-the-author-of-prince-is-discovered.html

Maxim’s de Paris

I enjoyed many evenings there since its opening in 1983. I also knew the Chinese lady who worked with Pierre Cardin, she sadly passed away years ago.
See a bit of the story here:
“Beijing Maxim’s: a miniature of China’s reform and opening-up. Restaurant evolving from a ‘crazy move’ into affordable dining.
Global Times Published: 28 October 2018/
See: https://www.globaltimes.cn/content/1124799.shtml

The place is now less famous, I hadn’t been there for years. Happy to see they kept the interior in excellent condition. Opened in 1983 as a joint-venture between Cardin and Beijing’s restaurant administration, the dark wood flourishes and Tiffany-style stained glass windows have not changed in over 30 years; nor has the tiny stage set into the back wall.
No idea how the food is there now, the previous French chef left.

Ghent University alumnae in Beijing

Large turnout

On 17 September 2021 Ghent University alumnae in Beijing were invited for a celebration in the residence of our Belgian ambassador H.E. Jan Hoogmartens.
I am from Ghent, Belgium where I graduated with a master’s degree in electronic engineering in “UGent” in 1973. See the building I attended nearly every day for my engineering, in the Jozef Plateaustraat in Ghent.
And no, I was not the oldest student: a Chinese gentleman (former Tsinghua Arts Department) was the star of the lunch with his 91 years!
I was impressed with the large turnout, I still remember our modest dinner with Inge Mangelschots in 2017, Alumnae and the regional representatives from all over China attended Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Guangzhou), we were a grand total far over 60 guests.
Indeed in the period 1977-2021 3,399 Chinese students chose UGent! In the year 2019-2020 there were 660 Chinese studying in Ghent.

The occasion was to celebrate 50 Years of Diplomatic Relations Belgium-China and 15 years of the China Platform of Ghent University.
See also the website: https://www.ugentinfinitum.be/
Yes I am registered there!

Sadly with COVID-19 none of the Ghent University staff could join but we had video messages also from the Dean.

Hmmm lunch buffet

All happy to enjoy the buffet of Renaat Morel, plenty to eat, as well as Belgian beer and more was available.


Looking at the pictures you might get hungry!
Thanks to our ambassador for his hospitality!